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Controversial ex-president of Greens should have role in party future, says May

OTTAWA - Green party Leader Elizabeth May is defending her party's former president as a "true Green," but admits Paul Estrin's recent pro-Israel comments "created confusion" about the party's position on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Estrin, who quit as party president Tuesday in the midst of a backlash against a blog post he wrote that appeared on the party's website, still has a role to play in the future of the Green party, May said in an interview.

In the post, Estrin accused Hamas of arming Gaza's children with grenades "and asking their citizens to be sheep to the slaughter."

In a statement late Tuesday, he said he "never intended to create confusion or have any of my actions negatively impact the party."

As is so often the case where conflict in the Middle East is concerned, the post proved divisive. Some Green supporters threatened to quit the party, while others showered the president with praise.

May suggested the brouhaha made his resignation necessary, but added it was Estrin's personal decision to step down.

"The problem wasn't his comments; the problem was that by attaching his title to a personal blog post, it caused confusion," May said Wednesday from B.C.

"But I am reaching out to see what he can do in the future for the party, because he's a very dedicated Green."

The Greens have long maintained a position of neutrality in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, but also encourage each party member "not to check your brain at the door," May said.

"Members of the party can vote with consciences and for what they believe their constituents would most like them to do."

May made clear that the Green party backs Israel and condemns Hamas as a terrorist organization. However, she said she finds the hardline stance of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his Likud party troublesome.

"We support a two-state solution, and we need to have the work being done by our government to secure a two-state solution — I am pro-Israel, but I am not pro-Netanyahu, and right now Canada seems to be a member of the Likud party," she said.

"We're losing any potential to play a useful role in resolving the conflict because of the stance we're taking."

Amid the Estrin controversy, however, the Greens were basking in a fundraising bonanza, making larger gains over the second quarter of 2014 than any other political party.

Financial reports released by Elections Canada show the Greens raised $531,404 during the second quarter, representing a 67 per cent increase over the same three-month period in 2013.

The party also saw significant growth in the number of contributors — 7,546 donors, a 66 per cent gain over the same period last year.

The Liberals and Conservatives, meantime, saw their fundraising revenues decline relative to the second quarter of 2013. The NDP enjoyed modest gains.

"Quarter after quarter, we're just blasting through our fundraising targets," May said. "The level of public support is building. This is excitement because we're offering something different."

Follow Lee-Anne Goodman on Twitter @leeanne25

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